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Washington State University
Dividend - Fall 2023 Creating Pathways to Excellence

E. & J. Gallo Winery Develops Carson Coug Talent With Blended Approach

By Sue McMurray

James DePaso offers students advice during workshops on the WSU Pullman Campus.
Photo by Sue McMurray
If the enthusiasm, adaptability, and dedication of Carson Coug graduates could be bottled, there would never be a labor shortage in the food and beverage industry. While there’s no silver bullet to solve this issue, E. & J. Gallo, a winery headquartered in Modesto, California, has tapped the Carson College of Business as a reliable source of talented employees to help position the company for the future.

As the need for workers has increased over the last decade, a good deal of time and thought has gone into what companies can do to attract and retain the workforce needed to meet market demand. During this time, E. & J. Gallo has engaged with the college on several levels by offering career workshops, event sponsorships, mentorships, internships, and employment opportunities.

In the last four years, the company has placed Carson Cougs in several of its 16 available internships in Seattle and Northern California and hired nine full-time employees in 2022. Approximately 24 current E. & J. Gallo employees are WSU graduates, says Sam Cole, E. & J. Gallo sales recruiting manager.

“We recruit at eight core schools in the Pacific Northwest, and our metrics on university graduates show we are successful when we hire Cougs,” Cole says. “Coug employees have a high promotion rate and a diverse number of roles within the company.”

Overall, Cole says WSU alumni are very well prepared, but recruits from the Carson College wine and beverage business management and professional sales programs are impressive and a particularly good fit for E. & J. Gallo.

The reason may be linked to The Next Carson Coug undergraduate curriculum that focuses on developing a balance of technical and interpersonal skills such as leadership, communication, teamwork, and global perspective.

“When recruiting, we look for traits we can’t coach,” Cole says. “Our industry is glamorous, but the day-to-day work is hard. Self-motivation, work ethic, and empathy—things that can’t be taught—go a long way. Carson alumni stand out because they are professional and excited about their unique focus in the industry. It’s fun to watch.”

Workshops support Carson Career Amplifier program

In the last year, E. & J. Gallo has given several workshops on résumé development, self-branding, and career readiness and helped sponsor the college’s professional sales competitions and wine and sales networking tailgate events. The company’s engagement helps business students fulfill requirements for Amplifier, the college’s cocurricular program offering professional development opportunities.

During a workshop designed to help students successfully plan for life post-graduation, James DePaso, director of E. & J. Gallo’s sales and leadership development program, offered students several tips on preparing for and navigating jobs, beginning with finding a company that aligns with their values and interests.

While E. & J. Gallo doesn’t require specific majors, DePaso said the college’s Professional Sales Certificate is a useful credential for working in a winery or any job requiring sales experience. “Academic minors are also an awesome way to specialize in or explore business, and language minors translate across a lot of jobs,” he said.

Regarding interviews, he advised students to research the company and avoid asking questions that can be looked up. “Do your homework first,” he said. “Research the interviewers and learn something about them beforehand. Ask what they like about the company and their jobs.”

For those with little work experience, he suggested including high school jobs on a résumé. “Don’t feel it doesn’t matter; I love seeing continual work history on entry-level applicants’ résumés,” he said.

DePaso’s advice on moving up within a company? Be open-minded and focus on who’s doing the work, not who’s getting the credit. He encouraged students to be their best selves—the person they’d want to manage as a supervisor.

Mentorship makes a difference

Mentorship from E. & J. Gallo executives is helping to make a difference in students’ professionalism and confidence.

“During my E. & J. Gallo internship, I met with managers in every role of the business. I was partnered with a mentor, and we met weekly to go over what I learned and what I could work on next,” says Brian Patrick, a recent management graduate. “This experience helped me learn how to organize a professional schedule, collaborate with teams, understand industry trends, and further develop my leadership skills.” Patrick now works as a sales representative for E. & J. Gallo in the Seattle area.

“Our goal is to always innovate and add value to everyone,” Cole says. “If we invest in helping students develop leadership and other professional skills, they will be that much better when we hire them.”